Project-based Homeschooling in the Later Years

Recently I gave a Zoom presentation on project-based homeschooling (you can sign up here for the next one), and a question I received made me think about how I have never stopped using project-based homeschooling (PBH) techniques, but PBH looks very different in our home than it did ten years ago. I don’t think about the techniques anymore. My sons each have a project that has become more of a life goal, and my role is to support them on a higher level. In other words, our lives revolve around these activities. My own projects have evolved over the years, overlapping with the boys’ activities, so we learn and grow alongside each other.

Here are the current state of our projects:

My eldest son is a classical pianist, and at 16, it’s clear that he has his heart set on a career in music. I’m not sure what that will look like yet, but we’re sacrificing a lot to help him. As we do more research, we know what we can offer him may not be enough to catapult him to the place he dreams of, but he works hard, and I have no doubt he’ll carve out a life full of music making.

He got to hold his favorite bird!

My younger son has been interested in birds since he was four-years-old, and it’s interesting for me to look back at how this interest has always been there, though there have been long periods when he hasn’t done much with it. Now that he’s 13, this is changing, and that’s largely because he’s old enough to join certain classes related to birds on Outschool and get something out of them. He also has an active YouTube channel where he shares his videos of birds. Recently he also got to visit a bird banding station in a program run by Georgia Audubon for teens. Now that he’s getting a chance to meet people with similar interests, I hope it’ll introduce him to many possible paths that will most likely include birds.

As for me, I’m thinking about what I can do to support the boys in these later years, yet I also know they are going to go by fast. So I’m wondering what life has in store for me when they don’t need me as a teacher/facilitator/coordinator anymore.

If there is one thing about project-based homeschooling, it’s that the learning never stops, the creating never stops, and the striving never stops. It’s a life-long endeavor. You have to find joy in the journey. Ultimately, the big project is creating a life that is worth living that also puts some good into the world. With the proper support, you can’t go wrong with that.

the mid-point of my son’s homeschool education (7th grade)

From an excursion earlier this year to Clemson University’s Bob Campbell Geology Museum. It’s small but worth seeing!

I have been reflecting lately on how we are homeschooling, or maybe a better way of putting it is that I have been reflecting on how homeschooling is going for my son, my 7th grader.

Back when he was five and we made the final decision that we weren’t going to enroll him in Kindergarten at the local school, I never imagined what it would be like to homeschool 7th grade — that mid-point between beginning his home education and finishing the education he would have at home. I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I would be “teaching” in the sense of demonstrating or lecturing. While I do that sometimes, I am rather surprised that I don’t have to “teach” or “demonstrate” or “lecture” to him much at all. This has been one of the biggest surprises I have had on this journey.

I am more of a facilitator. I am a curriculum searcher, reviewer and sometimes writer. My goal is always to find or create something that I know my son will enjoy, and if not enjoy, at least he’ll be able to get something out of it and make progress on his academic goals. I take his opinion seriously when I pick out his curriculum, and I have dropped a few things that he didn’t like.

Right now my son is mostly teaching himself. That is, he sits down and reads and does the work. Sometimes we read together, and we discuss things, but mostly, he teaches himself with the curriculum I pick out for him.

When I think about it, that is amazing. I mean, what’s a better way to learn? He can learn at his own pace, and more importantly, he has to understand the material in order to move forward. Now I understand why homeschoolers in general seem to be excelling at standardized tests, and top universities welcome them to apply.

This year he made a comment that he’s enjoying his lessons more than in years past — everything except the writing assignments and the Word Roots workbook. That made me feel great because I know I’m on the right track, and hey, he’s not a language arts kind of guy. But he seems to like the literature unit I put together for him, and his writing skills are improving tremendously. More importantly, he sees the value in working on these skills, so he’s willing to do the work.

I’m not surprised he likes his lessons better this year. I like them more this year. He has gotten passed the drudgery of the basics! He’s a strong reader, strong in math, and now stuff is getting interesting. But I don’t think it would have gotten interesting, if we weren’t homeschooling. When I was in the 7th grade, I didn’t think learning was interesting. I was more consumed with the kids around me, and I was filled with anxiety because I wasn’t “popular.” As long as I got decent grades, did I really need to learn the material well? Sadly, I didn’t think so… I didn’t even think about it. This is what school administrators don’t understand. Students can always get by and get an okay grade even if they aren’t mastering the material. (And I don’t mean by cheating, though, sadly, that is one option some kids take.) This is okay to them because they don’t see the big picture. They don’t see why they should learn what is being taught.

At home, my son doesn’t have to deal with the angst of an artificial setting where he and his peers are stuck in a room together all day with no freedom whatsoever, so instead he has had a chance to figure out what interests him, and this has led him to make plans for the future, which motivates him tremendously. Since he’s home with us, listening and doing things we find interesting — like watching documentaries — he has gotten a chance to see the interesting things in life. He started to realize that his lessons are interesting: science, history, different people and cultures, music, literature and even math. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that this is what excites me about life. There is so much to learn and experience and try. There isn’t time to worry about being popular. I’m glad my son isn’t waiting until he’s an adult to figure that out. (But note: I’m not saying that school is a waste of time. I think some kids really benefit from their school experience. I’m just saying that my particular school experience wasn’t a good fit for me.)

Here we are at the mid-point in the year that is the mid-point of my son’s homeschool education, and I feel very happy with how everything is going. Will I feel this way tomorrow or next year? Or in five years? I don’t know. But so far, so good.

If you would like to read about the 7th grade course of study I created for my son, click here for Our 7th Grade Homeschool Game Plan.

Our 7th Grade Homeschool Curriculum and Schedule

Every year since my eldest son was in Pre-K, I have written about our homeschool and the resources we use. Now he’s in the 7th grade, and I’m still writing about it, but as I mentioned in my last post, while I love writing and sharing, I’m not in a position to put so much time and effort into this blog for free anymore. 😦 So, I’m trying something a little different. I’m not asking for donations or subscribers. I’m simply putting my work into pdf format, and I’m selling the digital files for a small amount. This way, you can purchase only what you need. If you do purchase one of my resources, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It helps me more than you know.

With that said, it’s my pleasure to announce that I have a new resource available in my store. Our 7th Grade Homeschool Game Plan contains all the information you want and more about the 7th grade curriculum I created for my son. At approximately 20 pages, it’s much longer than any of my blog posts. I include links to all the curricula I purchased as well as some alternative resources that I know to be quality products. If warranted, I comment on how we use each curriculum and give brief reviews of each. I also share how we plan our priorities and schedule our time.

Creating a course of study that is flexible and offers plenty of time for my son’s other endeavors was an important consideration as I planned this year. I am also including a printable checklist for those who would like to try my rotation method.

Topics covered are:

  • Language Arts (Grammar & Writing, Literature, Vocabulary)
  • Math
  • Science
  • History
  • Foreign Language
  • Critical Thinking
  • Art
  • Music
  • Making Priorities
  • Scheduling: My Rotation Method

As I mentioned, this resource is approximately 20 pages long, and I’ve been working on it since September. Yep, it’s taken me four months to write 20 pages. (Sigh.) But I’ve finally finished it, and I hope you’ll like it. I hope you’ll buy it!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me! And please let me know if there’s anything else I can write up and share in a pdf format. I’m always looking for more ideas, and I’d like to know what people are interested in learning about.

Click here to go to MY STORE

Thank you for your support. If you like my blog and find it useful, I would greatly appreciate it if you would share my store with your friends. Thank you!


This year one of our favorite subjects is a priority again – science. Yay!

September brings with it the relief of a new school year. A fresh start. It brings cool mornings, though, unfortunately, not cool afternoons. In fact, it’s some of the hottest weather we’ve had all summer, and I’m pining for cooler temperatures, but I know I should be careful what I wish for.

I love sitting on my front porch looking out at my yard, which is very lush and green, though the flowerbeds are dry and brittle this time of year. We’ve had very little rain lately. (But it rained while I was working on this post! Whoop!) This was not the summer of gardening, and if you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you’ll know that we like to dabble in our garden. I usually plant a few vegetables in spring, but I didn’t do that this year. And whereas last year I had some stunning flowers that were attracting loads of butterflies, this year I have very few flowers and few butterflies. That makes me sad, but it couldn’t be helped. This summer had a mind of its own, and it wasn’t a time when I could give much attention to our garden. That’s okay.

I’m thrilled that we have officially started 7th and 4th grade. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I’m enjoying the structure and new schedule.

I may or may not write a more detailed blog post about this, but I created a new system this year for my 7th grader to help us figure out what he needs to work on each day. It’s impossible to do every subject everyday, and I know we probably won’t finish everything I would like for him to do, so….

As I do every year, I made my yearly list of priorities, which I mentioned in my last post, which are science, literature, writing, and math in that order. I’ve also got other subjects, which I listed in my last post too. I made him a chart, listing these subjects and how many times he needs to sit down and work on them each week or so. The higher priority subjects get higher numbers. For example, one workbook he needs to work on one time, another two times, science four times, and math three times, etc. Basically, he checks off every time he works on an item, and once he’s put the allotted number of check marks beside each, I’ll print out a fresh chart, and he’ll start all over again.

I am doing it this way because while it would be great for him to finish everything in a week, I knew it would take longer, and I don’t want him to worry about how long it’s taking (within reason). I prefer quality work over abundant work, though at the same time, we do have goals to reach. This system allows him to rotate through all the subjects on a regular basis while also giving him plenty of time for his piano practice and events (one that happened this week, in fact). We have learned from our first trial that it’s taking him about two weeks to complete a chart. Without that piano event, it would have been completed sooner, so that’s great. I was only going to worry if it took, say, a month to finish it. Two weeks is totally reasonable for the amount of work I’m giving him. It also gives him a little freedom in choosing what he wants to work on at any given time.

I promise I’ll also write more details about 4th grade with my younger son, but since I already have a lot of 4th grade blog posts, I tend to write about the new stuff more often. I find great joy in homeschooling my younger son who benefits from my prior experience but who also challenges me to find what works best for him at a time when our household is so much different than it was when the boys were smaller.

Anyway, here we are in September. It’s full of promise for the year ahead. There will be challenges for sure. We have a lot of changes this year, but they are good changes, and like the boys, our household is maturing, coming into itself. Finding its niche. We are all very excited for the future.

Planning Junior High Homeschool

My son has finally reached junior high school or 7th grade. I won’t dwell on how quickly this happened. 😮

{Note: Every state seems to have different terms for these middle years. In Georgia, they call 6th-8th grade “middle school,” but for simplicity’s sake, I consider 6th grade part of elementary school and 7th & 8th grade “junior high school.”}

I spent the better part of last year thinking about his junior high level work….That is, 7th and 8th grade. It’s my goal to prepare him for high school level work by the end of 8th grade. It’s a little bit easier, I think, to plan for the next two years instead of one. And, yet, it’s harder to plan for this level too. I fell somewhere between a “relaxed” and “structured” homeschooler for elementary school, starting off very relaxed but then increasing the “structure” a little bit each year, and now we are much more serious and structured because he is college bound. (At least, that’s what he’s telling us. 😉 )

So what are my goals for junior high? This is what I hope to achieve so that we’ll be on track for high school. (Find more details about the curricula we’re using here.)

Writing — A solid grasp of outlining, summarizing, and writing a formal essay.

Literature — The basics of literary analysis, literary terms, and a good dose of excellent, young adult literature. I’ve created my own literature unit (with some help from online teacher resources), and I’m very excited about it.

Vocabulary — We’re going to learn word roots and the history of the English language.

Math — Complete Pre-Algebra so that he’ll be ready for Algebra by the 9th grade.

Science — Complete Earth Science for Middle Schoolers curriculum and as much of a Physical Science curriculum as possible. Basically I want him ready for a high school biology course in 9th grade.

History — I don’t have a specific goal for history. We are surveying both World Civilizations and U.S. history, and we’ll just continue with this throughout junior high and high school. The older he gets, I’ll weave in more research and writing projects related to history. As we study World Civilizations, we will be learning more in depth information about the major world religions as well.

Foreign Language — Both the boys have convinced me that they want to study Chinese. (We tried both Chinese and Spanish.) We’ll continue on with this as time permits.

Critical Thinking — I have added some resources that will teach my son the basics of philosophy and critical thinking. There is no set goal here either. We’ll continue this throughout junior and high school as time permits.

Art — I want to continue with some basics of drawing and art history, but this won’t be a high priority. We’ll do it whenever we need a break from our other work. We’ve already learned a lot by taking this relaxed approach to art education.

Music — Last but certainly not least, classical music training is my eldest son’s top priority. This makes it imperative that I find the best resources for his academic work that will be efficient and engaging as well as less time consuming….

So, the academic priorities will be writing, literature, math and science for this next 7th grade year. Everything else will be subject to the time we have.

Note: I owe some credit to the following publications, which helped me the most in making this basic plan for junior high school:
Homeschool High School Requirements — The free printable that you can access on that page was very helpful in trying to figure out where my starting point needs to be for high school.
The Well-Trained Mind, 4th Edition — I don’t consider us classical homeschoolers, and I’m glad I didn’t have this book during my son’s elementary years. However, in planning junior high school, I found some helpful advice and inspiration. My final plans veer far away from this approach, but it continues to give me a compass whenever I need it.

What are your plans for this new school year?